Essex Pauper Letters, 1731-1837

Sokoll, Thomas
Date published: 
January 2006

The immensely rich archives from the administration of the English poor law before 1834 include letters to the overseers of the poor that came from the poor themselves. As personal testimonies of people claiming relief, which are often written in a stunningly 'private' tone, pauper letters allow deep insights into the living conditions, experiences and attitudes of the labouring poor in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This edition contains some 750 of these letters, all those presently known to survive in the county of Essex. The Introduction demonstrates the immense importance of this neglected source, both for the social historian and for the comparative study of literacy.